Thursday, December 16, 2021

The Inexorable Decline in the Quality of Home Entertainment

 As my father aged, he was prone to say “I’m glad I won’t be around to see…” and then complain about some aspect of the decline of civilization. I made a conscious decision never to do that. Keeping this promise is harder some days than others, especially during the covid era, but I’ve done well in general.


That’s not to say I ignore things I don’t like. I’ve mentioned today’s topic before, but events have conspired to prompt a re-visitation. I understand this is all trivial, entertainment-related stuff. Still, with all the other things going on, entertainment fills a greater role than it might otherwise.


Let’s start with home entertainment, by which I mean television, by which I mean streaming services, as what’s shown over the air (read: cable) is rarely worth the time to read the program guide. Streaming services are pay to play, but that’s not stopping them from starting to sneak in commercials.


Here's the thing, boys: HBO and Showtime set the standard for pay TV, and the standard is we already paid, so give it to us straight. Hulu’s old TV shows don’t bother me as much; the creators built in commercial breaks, making the ads less obtrusive.


The other night we watched an Australian Western, The Proposition, using Amazon Prime as a portal to IMDB TV, which was “free with ads.” We can live with Hulu’s ads, so we gave it a try.


I’d like to give the movie a thumbs up or thumbs down, but I can’t. The ads appeared seemingly at random, and so disrupted the continuity I can’t make a fair assessment. The movie is mostly atmosphere and tone. Random breaks for dog food, makeup, and, worst of all, promos for what a fine service IMDB TV is, killed any mood we might have built. Some were timed so badly we wondered if they’d just let the movie run behind the ads. They hadn’t, but some of the cuts were so dramatic it was a valid concern.


This is yet another example of the inexorable creep of advertising into our entertainment. The compact used to be that the viewer had to put up with commercials as the cost of the entertainment. Now it feels like the providers only have programming because they don’t think we’ll tune in just to watch commercials. (Yes, I know this was always true. They just weren’t as obvious about it.)


Take sports. Baseball has long had the green screen ads behind home plate. Now the fields have ads along the baselines and TV superimposes corporate logos onto the backs of the pitcher’s mounds. I saw a game last season with a large ad superimposed on the Green Monster at Fenway Park, and another where a TV-only ad covered the hitters’ background.


Hockey is even worse. There have been ads between the blue lines for years. Now they are also in the corners. Some TV outlets started superimposing ads on the glass several years ago. Now everyone does it near the blue lines in both offensive zones. Corporate logos started appearing on helmets a couple of years ago. This year the Washington Capitals have logos on the uniform jerseys. Soon everyone will.


Why does this bother me so much? Probably because I used to be able to use sports as my refuge away from the outside world. Now they not only have ads everywhere, TNT runs the odds for proposition bets on the screen during the game. The event has become an excuse for advertising in the spirit of too much money is never enough.


Which brings to mind another point. Everywhere we look, some business is complaining about how there isn’t enough money. We can’t afford to pay minimum wage / hire new workers / provide benefits / improve customer service / you name it. Then where does all this advertising money come from? The cart is no longer before the horse. It’s rolling down the road on its own


I have no solution. I’m old and cranky. Next week I’ll still be old, but I’ll have reading recommendations.


For now, get off my lawn.

1 comment:

E. Ellis said...

I understand your displeasure with television content, however, being relatively new to streaming, I have been quite amazed at the quality level of content from programs outside of the US.

I use the ROKU and several times a year there are promotions that allow you to sample channels from around the world and some of this content is exceptional. Half of the journey is finding all of the gems sprinkled among the garbage.

Sadly, so many viewers are turned off by having to read subtitles (I'm the opposite and also dread dubbing).

Also, the TUBI channel comes with ads, but the ads are short and relatively infrequent and the content on TUBI is outstanding.

PS....I wrote an essay for that is set to be published in Jan and mention your blog as one that shines a light upon entertainment items deserving more attention.